Should we really care about the most recent government shutdown?
After all, it only lasted around 60 hours or so, over a weekend where many government employees had off anyway.
This one was different, however, for the reasons outlined below.
Why was the government shut down?
Before gaining an understanding as to why the government was shut down recently, let us go into the basics of a government shutdown. To simplify, spending bills are passed by Congress (always originating in the House of Representatives) to keep the government funded for a set period of time. No spending bills passed = no money for the government to run itself.
What has started to emerge in recent years is opposition parties (the Republicans in 2013, the Democrats in 2018) holding spending bills hostage over issues that are seemingly unrelated to funding the government.
In this most recent shutdown, after the House of Representatives passed a spending bill to extend government funding for an additional month (funding was set to run out on January 19), Democrats along with a handful of Republicans defeated a measure in the Senate to pass a spending bill by a vote of 50-49 (60 votes were needed to pass).
The question is: why was it defeated?
The reason the temporary spending bill was not passed was mainly due to DACA. DACA was created from an executive order by former President Barack Obama in 2012 that provided a way for undocumented children under the age of 18 to remain in the country, provided they met certain conditions such as graduating high school and not having a criminal record.
On September 5, 2017, President Donald Trump rescinded the executive order, stating that it would be phased out over a period of six months to allow Congress the chance to come up with a solution for what to do with the estimated 800,000 individuals that were protected under the program.
So in essence, Democrats wanted assurances from Republicans that the matter would be dealt with sooner rather than later, and when Republicans in Congress balked, the Democrats decided to come together and shut down the government. Shutting down the entire United States government for 800,000 undocumented immigrants when the program wasn’t even set to end for another two months wasn’t the best decision made by Democrats in Congress, as evidenced by a CNN poll showing nearly 60% of the public disagreeing that the government was worth shutting down over DACA.
Why we may see more shutdowns in the near future
There are two reasons why this may not be the end of government shutdowns for 2018 and beyond.
The first is that, as stated earlier, the spending bill is simply a stop-gap measure that only lasts for one month. If a long-term (or even another short-term) spending bill is not passed we could be looking at yet another shutdown. At this point, it seems hard to believe that the Democrats or Republicans want to have to deal with passing spending bills every month, but if neither can come to a consensus regarding immigration and DACA, it could certainly become a reality.
This goes into the second reason as to why we could be looking at more government shutdowns in the near future: political polarization. Instead of coming to the table and hashing out a compromise, each side would rather stay entrenched where they are and not budge. It is also one of the reasons why Social Security, the national debt, Medicare, and other programs are not being addressed as they should be at this point in time. The can will continue to be kicked down the road because neither side has anything to gain from compromise. Unless both parties come to their senses (or the public wakes up and realizes that everything is not all sunshine and rainbows) then nothing will get solved until it is too late.
If one party can hold the United States government hostage over an issue that for all intents and purposes does not relate to spending, what does that say about the state of politics within the nation today?